Maya Sacrifice & Warfare

With a history stretching back thousands of years, it’s about time that the Ancients started looking at the extraordinary Maya civilisation in Central America. Even with a range of sources that survive, many aspects of these ancient peoples remains debated and shrouded in mystery. This is especially true when studying warfare and the whole idea of ‘sacrifice’. What were the rules of engagement for the ancient Maya? What was the purpose of warfare? How did they define winning? And what would happen to those captured in war? Could they have been sacrificed?


Joining Tristan today is Professor Elizabeth Graham, a titan of Mesoamerican archaeology who has been researching the Pre-Columbian Maya for several decades. Liz puts forward a very strong case for why she believes there was not human sacrifice among the Classic Maya and why we should not associate the occasional killing of captives with that term.

This episode was first published September 2021

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